DEA (diethanolamine) is what they call a “wetting” agent and is primarily used in shampoos and lotions to provide lather. It can also be found in brake fluid, degreasers and antifreeze. Now there is something I want to put on my body in the shower. Supposedly this chemical is not too harmful all by itself; but it reacts none-too-nicely with other chemicals in our products and can create a very potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. And according to some studies, DEA directly inhibits fetal brain development in mice by blocking the absorption of choline, a nutrient required for brain development and maintenance. DEA is also associated with miscarriages in laboratory studies. This gets better by the minute!
The Skin Deep database for cosmetic safety even gives DEA a score of 7, or very toxic and hazardous.
There are a few names used for DEA variants in skin care products, and here are a few things to look for on the label:
- Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine
- DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate
- Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine
- Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine
- Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine
- Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine
Of course there are those people who say that the studies were flawed, the concentrations were too high, or the effects only occur in animals. And I say that I want to avoid anything that could cause me harm – there are enough other things out there that could do me in, why purposely use a chemical like diethanolamine on my body that could give me cancer? It has already been restricted in the European Union…too bad our FDA doesn’t regulate cosmetic products that closely.